1. Tim Hudson. Few people realize it but if Tim Hudson has a hot month he could finish this 2000-09 as the second winningest pitcher of the decade. By coming back from Tommy John surgery and winning his first game in long while last night, he notched his 136th win since the start of the 2000 season. As of this morning, he's got one more win the Roy Halladay during that stretch and one fewer than Roy Oswalt. He's more than a dozen wins ahead of Johan Santana and is really, really (I'm almost positive) far ahead of just about anyone else you'd think might have him beat. Except for Randy Johnson. The Big Unit has him by seven wins, which will be hard to make up in just a few weeks. Still, that's pretty impressive for Hudson, whose injury troubles have made a lot a people forget just how good he was in Oakland and how consistent (if not spectacular) he was once he got to Atlanta.
2. Colorado Rockies. Home runs by Todd Helton (another one of those guys whose numbers over the course of the decade put him in some pretty amazing company) and Carlos Gonzalez propelled the Rockies by the light-hitting Mets and out of their skid. Yup, the Mets coming to town are the best thing for a slumping ballclub. The Rockies' win coupled with the Giants loss in Philly keeps hopes of a purple Rocktober alive.
3. UEFA. The overlords of European football (that's soccer) have come down hard on Arsenal striker Eduardo for taking a dive during a Champions League qualifier at Celtic. He went to ground when the goalkeeper came out to challenge him and won a penalty for Arsenal. He cooly slotted home the goal. Arsenal would add a few more scores and would dispatch Celtic handily but the Scots were angry after the match. I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I'm thrilled to see a hard line being taken against those who take dives. Not only can it affect the outcome of a game but it also is gives all the anti-soccer folks out there plenty to mock about the beautiful game. So, on the that score: good for UEFA. On the other hand, I feel like a two-match ban is a bit harsh considering that if the referee had not been fooled by Eduardo and had penalized (as the rules allow) during the game then he just would have received a yellow card an no ban whatsoever. It feels wrong that he is facing a harsher penalty because he actually got away with it. That makes this feel a bit hollow and if it was done only to appease Celtic and to appease the masses who became aware of the story. What now? I think that if you were going to allow video evidence to suspend Eduardo after the fact then you have to at least bring the rules on the pitch into line. Does a dive by an offensive player in the box, one that is clearly seeking a shot from the penalty spot, warrant a straightaway red card just the same as a hand ball by a defender that is clearly trying to stop a goal? I think this penalty brings us closer to that reality. And, to be honest, I'm fine with that. UEFA made a bold move in suspending a player for diving but now they've got to follow through if it's going to be viewed as anything other than a knee-jerk reaction to bad press.
4. Cole Hamels. He tossed a complete-game two hitter last night against the red-hot Giants. Yet, I've got him in the four spot. And that's because he's pitched most of this season like No. 4 starter. He's given you innings and has shown flashes of something more but he's been too erratic to have produced anything better than a .500 record. That's been Hamels in 2009. The MVP of the 2008 World Series entered last night's game with a 7-8 record. With the Phillies firmly in control of the NL East, Hamels has got one month to figure out how to duplicate his sterling effort for the three to five starts he could make in the postseason.
5. Ricky Rubio. Teenage Spanish hoops prodigy Ricky Rubio has signed a two-year deal to play for Barcelona in the Spanish pro league and has no plans of showing up in the NBA before 2012 even though the Minnesota Timbewolves spent the No 5 pick in the 2009 draft on him. There was always doubt of whether or not he would show up in Minny, which has been burned by cosmopolitan point guards before (a certain Mr. Starbury, you might have heard of him). The shores of the Mediterranean or Minnesota? Tapas or whatever the local fare in St. Paul looks like? Aside from the issue of where he plays in the USA, there is also the very important notion of how much he plays for. If he does stay in the Catalan capital for two seasons, taking him past his 21st birthday, then he is no longer bounded by the rookie pay scale in the NBA. That changes any deal he might sign and probably opens up a whole other avenue of possible trades (although I'm not totally sure about that part). Financially, it makes sense to do everything the way he has done it. I think. He's getting paid to play in Europe right now and I don't doubt that all the media attention that followed the draft didn't drive his price up abroad. And if he stays a bit longer then he won't have to pay a buyout fee (although there is one for either of the next two years) and could potentially sign a more lucrative NBA deal than if signed after the draft. And, the best part, is that this could all happen by the time a collegiate player would be entering their senior year.
Benched. David Kahn. The sportswriter turned General Manager of the Timberwolves is being torn apart by his former peers right now for his seemingly failed double-barrel point guard gambit at the 2009 NBA Draft. Frankly, I don't think he's totally screwed, though. He still controls the rights to Rubio and, let's just say for the sake of argument, he were willing to trade those rights to the New York Knicks for rookie forward Jordan Hill and some other asset(s) then he ends up with the player he would have likely drafted in the No. 5 slot and another usable piece. I know nothing is that simple. I know. And I know this development doesn't mean that Rubio will be a Knickerbocker. I know. But I think that Rubio is young and NBA hearts will only grow fonder the longer he stays away, which means that Kahn controls a very unique asset. Kahn can sill turn this around. KAAAAAAAAHHNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!